Fourth line earns its time
For much of Game 1, the good news for the Kings was that their fourth line was arguably their best line. That was also the bad news for the Kings. For long stretches of the game, the line of Brad Richardson, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan seemed to be the only line skating and hitting with any type of consistent intent and aggression. The Kings will need better from their other three lines in Game 2, but they’ll also be thrilled if they get a duplicate performance from Fraser’s line. Nolan, in particular, had an outstanding game — more on him later — and Fraser couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to score his first-ever playoff goal, as he gave the Kings a 1-0 lead in the first period.
Darryl Sutter loves to roll his four lines as much as possible, and Sutter had no problem doing that in Game 1. The effort of the fourth line was appreciated by players such as Jeff Carter.
CARTER: “They were excellent for us. I think they’ve been great, all playoffs long, and they haven’t got really the credit they deserve. We’re hearing a lot about the Devils’ fourth line, but our guys have been just as good. They obviously had a huge goal for us last night, to get us going. They created pressure all night. They probably had, out of all the lines, the most chances out of anybody. So it’s obviously nice to see.’’
Fraser, for instance, had 11 minutes, 28 seconds, of ice time, his highest total of these playoffs. The overtime period factors into that, but Sutter also made a conscious decision to play that line more…
SUTTER: “I think when you have time off, it’s interesting from a coaching standpoint. You think you can shorten your bench because guys are fresher. But really when you have time off, the first thing I could see last night (was), we did have some sluggish guys, and it was at the top end of our skill set, in terms of players. It doesn’t bother me to play — I don’t call them our fourth line, I call it Colin Fraser and whoever is playing with him. So if they’re on, they can play against anybody. If you look at it, the (Fraser) goal last night was against Zajac’s line. You know what, I’m confident whoever is playing with Fraz, as long as they’re doing the job. There’s nights where maybe the other team is playing their top line or their top two lines more and you’ve got to be careful. But at the same time, it’s still about performance and the quality play. (In Game 1 it) worked out.’’